Category: Blog

And That’s a Wrap

I would like to start by thanking all of our customers that visited us this year. There were many changes to the way we operated this year. I was so happy at the response that you, our customer had during what has turned out to be a really challenging year for all of us. Thank YOU.

I love working in the golf course industry. There is something about how the seasons go that I have really learned to appreciate, and at times suffer through. I grew up “working” for my Parent’s at the golf course. I was probably 14 when they started building it. As a teen I wasn’t the hardest worker. I was more worried about socializing while I was in high school. When I graduated I spent about 7 years in Post Secondary, finally settling on a career with Catholic Social Services. I worked as a Rehab worker in Group Homes, and as a Program Coordinator. I still remember getting the call while sitting in my office at CSS. Mom – “your Dad got hurt at work”. Me – “Oh My God, is he ok?” Mom – “He hurt his leg, got pinned by the tractor”…

He was lucky that Trever Soosay was working with him or it could have been a lot worse

From that point on, there was no turning back for me. We had just built our back 9 and my Dad was superintendent, so while he was laid up I took a leave in order to help my family out. The leave turned into a resignation and the rest is history. Over the years I became more involved as our Superintendent as well as the General Manager. As I stepped forward more, Mom and Dad saw they could trust me to take the reigns. I am currently the GM and we have hired Aidan Fitzgerald, a very smart man who knows his stuff, to be our Superintendent. I am very thankful for Aidan as it allows me to focus more on doing the things I love about the job – the people.

I have spoke about the challenges of working in a family run business. In my experience there are good and bad that come with it. In my family, my Dad had a hard time accepting a change in the balance of power. Don’t get me wrong, this is his baby, he is the creator and owner of our Summer Playground. That is why I took 1 minute to find a diplomatic way of writing what I did 2 sentences ago. haha. But there are also benefits. I feel that now I can pay my parents back for all the crap that I put them through growing up. By taking care of their legacy I am trying to honor their vision, their dream.

My youngest son Kael helping drag the sand into the profile of the greens 🙂

This year at Dorchester Ranch Golf Course, I learned that I should not be a course marshal. I should have known this from stories I hear about my Dad yelling at people jacking around on carts or kicking people off the course. There was a 50 year old gentleman recently who sheepishly came into the clubhouse. He seemed nervous and when I started talking to him he had been kicked off the course by dad 25 years ago for abusing golf carts. This gentleman is now a teacher and is older than I am. He was worried that my Dad may recognize him and give him a “blast”. As a business owner it is hard to not take damage to property or business personally. This year I found myself following in my Dad’s footsteps in not a good way, so I retired myself from Marshalling. If something goes south I tend to get angry and odds are I will say or do something that I will regret, so I will leave it to the professionals.

By having a small family business, your entire life plays out on a stage. The good, bad, and ugly all on display for everyone to see. Its not all bad though. Most people are respectful and genuinely good people. My entire family feels so lucky to have met the people we have. The memories and bonds that we have formed will last a lifetime.

Gordon Dorchester cutting 10 fairway before back 9 was open.

I’m going to tell you a story about my Dad and I. I feel I have to qualify what I’m about to say because if you don’t know me or my Dad, you may not realize that hours or day’s later we could laugh about these things that happen. I had a plan, we were verticutting and topdressing greens. We had 2 sets of reels, a dull set and a mostly sharp set. We don’t have a grinder so we hire our sharpening out and it can be quite expensive to sharpen reels. My plan was to verticut and cut with our decent set of reels as to not dull them too bad then top-dress, brush, water, and put the dull reels on the greens mower for the next couple cuts. Hoping to get the sharp ones on by the weekend. All I remember is Dad drove up to 11 green in his cart while I was verticutting or topdressing. I had a plan, everyone knew the plan, and it was going good. He wanted to change the plan. We got to arguing and I jumped on the front of his cart so he wouldn’t drive away. He floored it and I slipped off landing on my back. KA-THUNK KA-THUNK was the noise the tires of the cart made as they ran over my legs. I lay there for a moment in shock looking at the cart speeding away, my Dad looking back at me with a sly smile on his face. I cannot help but find some humor in this as I tell this story. No one got hurt. It is a funny memory. Sometimes though, I wonder if the guy on 13 Blue tee saw what happened…

Spring is Here

This afternoon I was feeling sorry for myself. I think its because I have had too much time on my hands. It is nice that the weather is warming because I’m not sure how much more being in my house for weeks at a time I could take. I have a question for you. How many times can you do a project, wash a dish, clean your yard, binge watch Netflix before things start to get monotonous? I will tell you, about 3 weeks worth.

With it warming up I thought I would get out of the house grab a few golf clubs, a bucket of balls, my camera and tripod, and my Dad’s gator and go for a drive.

As I got down to hole 11 Dad’s gator started acting funny. It would start but was sputtering right away. The only way I could keep it running is by choking the crap out of it while I pumped the gas. I shut it off and could not believe my bad luck. I started to feel sorry for myself again. But then I thought, I was not going to let this circumstance get me down. I would walk back to my truck and take pictures along the way, trying to make the most of the situation I found myself in.

I felt bad because our Superintendent Aidan was going to use it tomorrow when he and the guys remove the tarps off of our greens. I also flashed back to the times when I worked for my Dad and would break something or do something wrong. I love my Dad, and he has mellowed a lot over the years, but ask my brothers he has not been the easiest boss to work for. ha ha.

As I made my way closer to my truck I opened my eyes and really took in what a beautiful evening it was. The temperature was perfect, the sun was starting to set, you could almost taste the fresh air. My annoyance at getting stranded, my boredom, even some of my worry started to slip away. Its amazing what getting out in open space and a little exercise will do for someone. One of the great things about living in Canada, is that we have a lot of open space available for us to use.

I made it to my truck and home, but as it gets later in the evening I am starting to think about how I am going to tow the gator in to the shop before my Dad gets up. Its probably an easy fix or at least covered under warranty, but I’m sure he will still give me a hard time. The joys of working in a family business I guess.

I saw something funny earlier today. Myself Aidan and Dad were working in the shop getting our Pro Gator going. When my Dad was moving his truck he decided he didn’t want to make ruts on the path by the shop and decided to “giver” up this hill by the shop. He ended up making worse ruts on the grass.. I looked at Aidan and said to him, ” You know, if me or you did that we would be in supreme shit”. So true. But Dad has worked hard to get what he has today. It is his show. He can do what he wants when it comes to his things. Much respect toward him.

Dorchester Ranch Golf Course looks to have wintered well, and we are very excited to begin work on getting our course in as best shape as possible to start the 2020 golf season.

I know we have a lot of customers wondering when we are opening. As you can see from the photos in this blog, if we were let, we probably would be opening this weekend coming up. My hope is that we get to open sometime in May. I would like to think for sure by June. But as you know, during this time it is hard to say things with certainty.

We appreciate our loyal customers at this time. Without you we could not operate. You are what drives our engine so to speak, and we would like to thank all of you for thinking of us during this time, or in the future. We are still here and we are thinking of you. We are planning and getting ready to open and can’t wait until that time.

The Dorchester Ranch

My Grandpa Tom and Grandma Joy’s original Ranch is “kitty corner” to the quarter that the front 9 of Dorchester Ranch Golf Course was built on. The original ranch is still in the family.

Grandpa Tom was born on May 11, 1911. He grew up in the Angus Ridge district south of Wetaskiwin. Grandma Joy Schantz was born March 22, 1916. she grew up in the Rosebrier area south west of Wetaskiwin. When they got married they lived in the outskirts of Wetaskiwin briefly before moving to Canmore where Grandpa secured a job Coal mining. Eventually Grandma and Grandpa moved to the Pigeon Lake area, where they would live for the bulk of their lives. They bought the original house and quarter, that is pictured, from Carl Fiveland. Tom started racing chuck wagons professionally in 1944. For many years he drove the Jack Sheckter wagon and later the Stewart Ranches wagon. There were times through out the years that when they traveled long distances to race, the kids would stay home at the Ranch for sometimes a week at a time. There was a large age gap in the siblings, so some of the older sisters would be in charge and they would be looked in on by helpful neighbors like Ruby Gist. It seemed like kids grew up a lot quicker back in those days. You can just imagine some of the trouble these farm kids got into over the years. You know what? They all turned out to be good people with good morals and a great deal of character. It is remarkable how times have changed. It makes you wonder at times, if we have went too far the other way when raising our kids.

Top Row – Dallas, Denis, Joan, Gordie, Gary
Bottom Row – Sharon, Tom, Joy, Joan

The Dorchester side of our family is very close and connected. While growing up, all of my Aunts or Uncle’s have lived in the Pigeon Lake area. Currently there are 2 brothers and 2 sisters living within a 15 minute drive of each other. We still get together as a group fairly regularly, and with cousins and second cousins our family gatherings can get quite large. It is wonderful to think, that if my Grandma and Grandpa were alive, there would be 5 generations of family in attendance. Something I love about my family is they are story tellers. I have heard many of my Dad’s stories and some of them have really stuck with me and I marvel at they life he and my aunts and uncles had growing up. Here is one of those stories.

The summer of 1955 was a cool and dreary season. During this time the brothers ranged from 9 to 14. It was on one of these days that my dad Gordie and his brothers Gary, Dallas, and Dennis set out on an adventure of sorts. You see, their Dad Tommy had bought some dynamite at an auction recently and the boys knew where he had hid it. Tom was chuck wagon racing, and the boys had spotted a beaver dam down on the battle river approximately 5 km away. They set out in the morning excited, nervous at what the day would bring. When they got to the beaver dam they took a pry bar and made a hole in the dam and dropped 2 sticks down the hole. Somehow Gary had found out how to wire up the caps and so they got everything ready strung out a fuse and hid behind a willow bush. They lit the fuse and, nothing. Assuming that they wired it wrong a few of the boys decided to go and look at their wiring job. They got about 1/2 way back to the damn and BOOOM it exploded. Gordie said the ground of the beaver damn raised a good two feet with the explosion and debris was scattered throughout the area. The boys agreed that Tom could not find out about this, and they kept the secret. At least until they were grown when inevitably this story came out, too late for Tom to be mad. He just smiled and shook his head.

Support Local

The amount of impact the Covid – 19 crisis will have on our economy will be unprecedented. Many of our business are being affected greatly. It is encouraging and uplifting to see how businesses are adapting and changing to try to respond to the crisis. The sad thing is we do not all have the means to respond in creative or necessary ways. I am calling on all of us as consumers, to support our small and medium sized business during this time, and to try to support local.

You may ask what supporting local might look like. People are not wanting to leave their homes for the necessities, why would they leave to buy a golf pass or a retail item. Many businesses that are remaining open, are taking payment online or over the phone. These same businesses are being creative in how they deliver their services to you. So, if you can afford it, buy a gift card from your favorite store. Buy a gift card from a golf course. We will overcome this crisis, but small and medium size businesses need your help to come out on the other end.

Dorchester Ranch Golf Course is a seasonal business. The weather is such that in central and northern Alberta that even if we wanted to, we cannot be open due to snow. In southern Alberta courses are opening or open. We hope that the diversion from the monotony of today’s reality brings our customers a positive experience that may serve to make it easier for them during this time.

Some people, due to the circumstances of businesses and Covid, cannot afford to support businesses. We need to be kind to each other be supportive of each other. Don’t be afraid to come forward if you need help or offer help if you think its needed.

I believe it is important to remain reasoned and calm at this time. Some information being passed around is incorrect, or partially true. That is why I believe we need to put our trust into our provincial governments right now. Let them be our voice of reason. All politics aside, we need to respect what they say and minimally adhere to what their recommendations are. Ultimately, many businesses are staying open by changing the way they do business. They are following the strict guidelines that the Alberta government have given us, and still providing their unique services to customers. How do you know what these guidelines are? Go to the Alberta Government website If you are looking for a place to see what type of aid you or your business may qualify for go to our local Chambers website

Dorchester Ranch is now asking for your support. We ask that if you were thinking of purchasing a golf membership for the 2020 golf season to do so now. If you were thinking of buying a 10 pass punch card, we can accommodate you. Even if you were thinking of playing a few rounds at Dorchester, we can make that happen with a gift card. Currently we have no way of 100% knowing, between weather and the on-going crisis the exact date that we will be able to open to the public. In the meantime we will be working behind the scenes to ensure that we are ready to go as soon as we can. Greens and Fairways still need maintenance and your support will enable us to do this.

For info or if you have any questions please contact Kyle at 780 312-9284.

Our Superintendent

Aidan Fitzgerald is a 29 year-old Golf Course Superintendent at Dorchester Ranch Golf Course, hailing from Toronto, Ontario, and has worked in the turf industry for 12 years. This is his 3rd season at Dorchester Ranch. He graduated from the University of Guelph in 2014, with Honors, majoring in Turfgrass Management. 

Aidan has been a part of a course construction and grow-in, and has managed athletic surfaces for the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC soccer teams. In addition, he has helped put on professional sporting events, including but not limited to: the 2016 and 2017 MLS Cup Final, the 2016 Grey Cup, the 2015 FIFA U-23 Women’s World Cup, the 2017 NHL Centennial Winter Classic, 2015 Rugby 7s for the Pan-American Games and the 2013 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey, for the PGA Tour. Feel free to introduce yourself this year if you see him at Dorchester Ranch – he is always up for a conversation!

“The winter for a golf course superintendent can feel like a long one – especially in a climate like Central Alberta. With a relatively short golfing season, you must be prepared to hit the ground running in the spring. So, the winter season serves as an opportunity to do just that. The old industry adage is that the Golf Course Superintendent is paid half of what they’re worth in the summer…and twice what they’re worth in the winter. It is an important time to recharge your batteries, reset your priorities and re-energize yourself for a new season! Even though hours are significantly cut down in the winter (a typical Superintendent can average in excess of 60 hours a week in the spring, summer, and fall – and typically one third of that in the winter), there is a common misconception that the golf course goes quiet when the snow hits. That is not entirely true. I like to think of the winter season as an opportunity to do 2 months worth of work, in a 4 month time frame. It is the best time to use your freedom to spend with family, friends, travelling etc. while you can. Once the course opens, the Golf Course Superintendent spends the next 8 months on call: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

“November typically serves as an opportunity to slowly work through your work fleet. Equipment needs to be serviced. Oil changes on large equipment are typically done during this time frame. Golf carts need oil changes too! And the constant flow of traffic during the season makes that difficult. So, in November, all carts have their oil and filter changed, the air filters blown out, and the batteries disconnected and winterized. Next up are the mowers – blades sharpened, oil changed etc.”

We at Dorchester Ranch Golf Course are very thankful we were able to recruit Aidan Fitzgerald. He has been excellent at his craft, and has become an important part of the Dorchester Ranch “family”.

Golf and Covid-19

I write this today to post this tomorrow. It is strange that all of my opinions on this matter may change overnight or by mid-day today. Things are changing that quickly. That just shows the uncertainty we are all now living in. Everyone is concerned for their families, their friends, their businesses , their way of life. It is a very stressful time for everyone. I am thankful for all of the very important workers and volunteers who will continue to serve us as we move forward and get through this crisis. I am also thankful for our governments of all levels. We may not always agree with their policies or their principals, but they are all we have right now. Now is not the time for politics we need to be working together.

I encourage that if you need something, reach out to someone for help. If someone needs help consider helping them. Do not put your own safety or the safety of others at risk, but help when you can. Think of the people in your life that are single and may live alone. These are the people who may appreciate a phone call, especially with social isolation.

In the last little while I have noticed something. A feeling of closeness to my family, my friends and loved ones. A sense of community in the Pigeon Lake area. People caring for one another, looking out for one another. In such a terrible time, it is something beautiful, maybe even something we can hang onto. I have seen people talking about a “great reset” and that maybe things will be different when we get through this. Things may be different, but not without us as a community, a province, or a country doing what we need to. That all starts with me or you, helping someone, volunteering, serving, caring, loving, or generally doing what is right.

I guess the title is a little misleading. I have not talked about golf too much. Dorchester Ranch Golf Course hopes to open this Spring and we do have a safety plan that addresses Covid – 19. In one month if the circumstances are “right” we plan to open. We have a great deal of safety measures in place. The check-in process may be a little different, but I ensure your golf “experience” will be the same. More details will be shared as we get closer to opening. We will adhere to what our Provincial Government’s mandate dictates. If we are shut down, we will work hard to ensure our course conditions are “mint” for you when the 2020 golf season begins. We will be waiting for you..

The beginning

And so it begins. Such a grand statement for something I may very well struggle to do with regularity. But it is a start, and all journeys have to begin somewhere.

I write this as I sit in my Mom and Dad’s winter home in Mesa. My parent’s are the reason I have become who I am, and the reason I currently work in the golf industry.

Griff Jones Birthday

Gord and Lil Dorchester both came from humble beginnings. Lil was raised just outside of Ponoka daughter of Griff and Pat Jones. Lil would say that her upbringing would be focused on family and community centering around the Zion church. Gordie came from farming and cowboy roots. He would say his upbringing would be rough, tough, centering around the farm and the sport of chuck wagon racing.

Dorchester Family

Gord was heavily involved in the sport of chuckwagon racing during the summer months. He had worked as a jail guard, a stone mason, a cabinet maker, a carpenter among other things. Mom worked as a secretary, as a bank teller and raised 3 boys prior to beginning her career in the golf industry. For many of their early years, mom and dad were very poor and had to budget down to the penny. When they started their own business they made good use of these skills and were able to succeed in their business because of this.

Gordie took up golf relatively late in his life. His father in law started buying him clubs One by one over time. Eventually he and his friend Bob started golfing regularly. Grandpa Tom had given our family 80 acres of treed land close to the Battle River Valley. When dad started clearing the land in long narrow strips for farm land I’m sure people thought he was crazy. What people did not realize was he had a vision, a dream that would change our lives forever.

Dorchester Golf Club opened its doors to the public on August 17, 1986. Gord and Lil had taken a huge risk to start this endeavor. Beginning as a basic 9 hole golf course, it was only possible because of immediate and extended family labor, having an uncle who had a golf course construction business, as well as a large bank loan. My parents took a huge risk to follow their dreams. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that has built our country into what it is today.

And here we are, 32 years later. We have an 18 hole championship course that is beautifully perched on the lip of the Battle River Valley. Mom and Dad are retired, and myself, my brothers and our families are tasked with keeping the torch alit. At times it can be a heavy mantle, but I would not change it for the world.

Hole #9

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